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Soft Hearts, Electric Souls

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Until recently, birthdays tended to come and go without much notice for Yasha. The the chaos and scarcity she'd grown up in contributed to this simple truth in large part, but more than that she had no idea when she'd been born and an equally vague sense of her actual age. The significance of both of those things had surprised and confused her when she'd learned of them as part of the process to get her out of Xhorhas. Everything was IDs and exact measurements here. Luckily, mere weeks of university living were all it took to resolve what had started as a perplexing and foreign emphasis on quantification into simple, daily reflex.

 

Still, the drafting of official documentation had presented Yasha the opportunity to make up a birthdate for her new life, and she hadn't had to think very hard about when she might have liked to have been born. Even on the shitty, washed-out screen of the little TV she'd procured for a time in Xhorhas, the breezy hills freckled with flowers and the green new life of spring had always caught her imagination; there was a vibrancy and invigoration in those scenes that she'd yearned one day to feel in her own life.

 

And so it was that almost exactly a year after everything turned upside down for the better, Yasha sat in the living room of her one-bedroom apartment and stared out the window at the big field across the street as the yellow dandelions blanketing it rustled slightly in the breeze. Her first proper birthday party had so far consisted of a four-way game of Mario Kart, several small cups of some sort of sparkling punch that Caleb had made in their kitchen, and watching Beau's eyes flicking over and over to the box Jester had brought in with her.

 

It was clear that Beau had been somehow involved with the gift, and when she had been sufficiently distracted as to be trounced in the game by Fjord of all people - even Yasha could reliably beat Fjord at this game - Jester seemed to finally pick up on the severity of the situation and made an executive call.

 

"You can open the rest of your gifts when everyone else gets here Yasha, but you have to open this one now or Beau might explode."

 

Yasha blinked away from the window and the field as Jester thrust a medium sized flat box up close to her, eyes gleaming with anticipation. The present was wrapped in dark blue, glossy paper and tied somewhat clumsily with a silver bow, and she reached for it obligingly with a smile. Next to her, Beau gave a perfunctory snarl and ducked her head out of immediate range of Jester's lashing tail. For all her posturing to look out for Beau, she was clearly just as excited for Yasha to have whatever this was.

 

"You're gonna take someone out with that thing," Beau muttered, heatless.

 

Jester took no offense, just dragged the spade of that tail soothingly across Beau's neck and kept beaming expectantly at Yasha. Beau huffed and forced herself to relax a little as Yasha hefted the weight in her hands and squished it gently. Definitely clothing of some type, something capable of tying Beau's nerves in knots. What could it be? Beau had proven herself over and over to be exceptionally good at picking things out that suited Yasha in ways that made her feel beautiful or strong or any number of things she might wish to, and she had never been shy about what Yasha's reaction might be.

 

A skittle bounced off her shoulder and clattered against the coffee table, and she looked up from her thoughts to find an unrepentant Fjord slouched in the recliner with his hand still poised in the throwing position. He maintained eye contact and loaded another one. "Open it, I wanna see. She's been hiding it from me for weeks."

 

Yasha raised her eyebrows and popped the skittle into her mouth with exaggerated slowness, which made Caleb snicker from his place cross-legged in front of the couch. He nudged Beau's knee and said, "I knew you had to be rubbing off on her too."

 

Beau gave him a quick return smile, but her eyes hardly left the box, and now Yasha was too curious to keep dragging this out. She tugged the wide ribbon away and draped it over Beau's head to dangle like a scarf, then wasted no more time pulling off the wrapping and opening the box. She pushed aside some tissue paper and paused, feeling breathless suddenly.

 

It was a sweater, sky blue with a slight v to the neck and a big white cloud in the middle, and Yasha knew even before she started to lift it up that it was big. Big for her, big because she remembered now - Beau had gotten That Look on her face months ago when Yasha had said she hadn't had a big sweater since she was a child, and in her very Beau way she had held on to that information until she could act on it. Sweaters simply didn't get made big enough to swallow her, and so it was clear that Beau had enlisted Jester's help in procuring one for her.

 

She set the box aside and laid the sweater across her knees to stroke the neck of it. It was so pretty that she wanted just to keep looking at it - putting it on would take too much of it out of her field of view. She looked from Jester to Beau, who was still watching somewhat nervously. "This is for me?"

 

"Of course!" Jester crowed. "The whole thing was Beau's idea. She picked the colors and designed where the clouds go, and she was the one who knew what shape would look best on you." She leaned over the back of the couch and stuck her hand excitedly into the middle. "The little lines of clouds on the sides are pockets!"

 

Yasha actually felt her jaw drop - she'd thought that was a thing people only did in books, but here she was. She looked again from Beau to Jester and back. Her voice came out higher and a little thin. "You guys made this?" She knew Jester liked to make things with her hands, but the quality of this was making her head spin a little.

 

Beau rubbed at the back of her neck and looked down. "I mean, all I did was buy a bunch of soft yarn and fuck around making a pattern, Jester's who - ow, you dick." She glared down at Caleb and shoved her leg into his shoulder in retaliation for the jab he'd given to her knee.

 

He rocked sideways with it and righted himself, looking unimpressed. "It is a beautiful design, and you created it. Deal with it."

 

Yasha's vision became white overalls and the pink shirt under them as Jester leaned over her lap from behind the couch to stare meaningfully at Beau. "I told you she would love it."

 

Beau managed a smile and pushed Jester back playfully with a hand on her forehead before glancing at Yasha. "You do like it then?"

 

It was easy enough to wrap one arm around Jester's shoulders and the other around Beau's waist to pull them both in for a big hug. "It's incredible. I don't even know what to do with myself." Yasha turned her head to kiss Beau's temple and would have kept her arm around her after releasing them but for Fjord piping up. "Put it on, Yasha, let's see it."

 

She glanced down at the blouse she was already wearing, back to the sweater, and nodded. "I will be right back." She squeezed Beau's knee gently as she gathered her gift and headed for the bedroom.

 

Yasha took a moment when the door was shut just to breathe and consider the sweater held up before her. It looked so friendly, somehow already worn and broken in with its cheerful clouds and the blue of a spring sky. Cold didn't linger here the way it had in Xhorhas, but there were still weeks of cold nights ahead - even the possibility of snow. It would be a complement to the season and a reminder of cheerful days to come when winter rolled around again.

 

And it had been made just for her. She could spend forever trying to process that, but right now she had to know what she looked like bundled up in such a declaration of love.

 

Yasha pulled her shirt off quickly and tunneled her way through the copious amount of soft fabric, unable to keep herself from shivering in delight at the feel of the weight and smoothness on her skin. The sleeves were overlong, and when she pushed them up she was delighted to find holes for her thumbs. She pulled her hair out from the back of the collar and finally turned to look in the mirror.

 

If she'd been asked, she wouldn't have known what she'd want to look like when wearing an oversized sweater. She wouldn't have even known there were options for her aside from "shapelessly lumpy" or "heavy bedsheet." She'd certainly never guessed that it was possible for someone as tall and as broad as her to look so…delicate? Yasha couldn't think of a better word for what she saw. The collar seemed crooked at first, but she quickly realized it was meant to expose her shoulder, showing skin on either side of her bra strap and seeming to put her collarbone on display. Yasha couldn't resist tracing a finger over it, marveling.

 

The sweater was long enough to reach almost to the middle of her thighs and did nothing at all to emphasize how big she was. In fact, it somehow managed the opposite. Yasha was proud of her strength, but the way the loose sleeves hid her muscles brought up a heady rush of release, as though she had been given the option to set aside all of that power for a moment if she liked. She could stand here in this oversized, handmade shirt and just be soft.

 

Yasha's eyes stung suddenly, and the sleeve she used to swipe at her face smelled like Jester, and gods she loved her friends so much.

 

She heard the front door open to raucous greeting and assumed Molly and Veth had arrived. She wondered fleetingly if there would be enough room for Caduceus when he got off work to join them and had to huff a quiet laugh of disbelief into her sleeve as she thought about the size of the family she'd gained in such a short time. When she'd seen her apartment for the first time, she hadn't been able to really comprehend that all of this space was for her. There was just so much of it.

 

And now look at her, having so many people who cared about something as simple as a birthday celebration that her huge space almost felt too small. Absolutely incredible. She didn't feel big enough to contain all of the joy of it suddenly, and when Beau's inevitable, hesitant knock came at the door, Yasha's voice cracked hard. "Come in."

 

Beau stepped in quickly, looking alarmed to find Yasha standing in the middle of the room with her arm pressed to her face and crying, just a little. "Yasha, what's wrong?"

 

Oh gods, she had never cried in front of Beau, had she? No wonder she looked so taken aback. "Nothing. It's good crying, I promise." Good crying. Gods, what a concept. If she could only talk to her younger self. She sniffed and looked down at the carpet beside Beau's feet. "I just…"

 

Beau approached, shoulders relaxing a little at Yasha's words but still looking over her anxiously as she reached to gently hold Yasha's upper arms and look up at her. "Just what?"

 

She made a little "oof" as Yasha draped forward and pulled her close, resting her cheek carefully on her head so as to avoid messing up her topknot. "Thank you," she murmured.

 

Beau's voice was a little muffled. "For the sweater?"

 

"For being my family." A few more tears leaked out at the word. Yasha didn't try very hard to stop them. "And sharing yours with me."

 

Beau's arms had come up automatically, and now she squeezed Yasha in return. "I should be thanking you, Yash. But you're welcome. Of course. I can't imagine living any other way now." She chuckled weakly. "You made me all soft."

 

There was that word again - soft. It didn't matter that Beau was a mosaic of broken glass and knives; it was the perfect word and always had been. Beau was the only one who could make Yasha feel so warm and safe with just her presence, had managed to create that sense of security within mere minutes of contact. She would thank whatever gods were listening for the rest of her life that her path had crossed with Beau's again, for the phenomenon that was Jester pushing them together because she loved them both. There was a time Yasha would have never entertained the idea of deserving any of them, especially Beau, and the very possibility that she might have missed out on a single moment of this was enough to make her shiver and hold Beau more tightly.

 

Beau let her hold on for a long moment before pushing back to extricate herself, laying a hand on Yasha's forearm in reassurance. "There's one more thing this sweater can do," she said. "Can I show you?"

 

Yasha nodded, a little perplexed. Beau held up a finger and lifted the hem of the sweater, and then she ducked under it and squirmed against Yasha until she was standing with her back flush to her front, head poking out under Yasha's to find them in the mirror and smile. "Hey, it worked. I was a little worried Caleb was full of shit."

 

Her head was the perfect height to look down and drop a kiss on, so Yasha did. "Full of shit about what?"

 

"He did something to it, said he made it 'circumstantially stretchy' or whatever. Means I can do this without worrying I'll put a hole in it." She frowned at Yasha's arms in the mirror and stuck her hands inside the sleeves to push them back down so that the sweater dangled past her fingers again. "You gotta let 'em hang so you can…" she took Yasha's wrists and awkwardly flapped their arms a little by way of explanation.

 

Yasha realized what she meant and lifted her eyebrows. "Right, that thing you do, with the - yes, I want to try it."

 

Beau pulled her arms back in to her sides to give her more slack in the sleeves and wiggled a little bit in a very Jester way as Yasha lifted her hands and shook them. The extra fabric pulled in an odd way as it swung, and Yasha gave in to the pleasing impulse to make them flap with more abandon.

 

It was such a strange thing, that a simple experiment in momentum inside a big sweater could make her feel small and cute. She looked up into the mirror, eyes shining, and blushed a little at the wide grin Beau was giving her.

 

"Awesome, right? You can smack people with them too, don't forget. Way fun."

 

Yasha considered, and then she shook the sleeves at Beau and planted a leg to keep them both upright when Beau sputtered and scrunched up her face, turning her head away with little grunts of perfunctory protest that sounded a lot like laughter. She bit playfully at Yasha and caught her wrist in her teeth, and they were both giggling when Yasha pulled her close with her other arm and flopped backwards on the bed to trap Beau against her stomach. She made a halfhearted attempt to get away, and Yasha didn't miss the way her breath stuttered when she tightened her arms to pin her more firmly in retaliation.

 

Beau liked being pinned, and Yasha liked pinning her. Beau said nothing, but Yasha could feel the invisible strand of the conversation they hadn't had yet stretching between them, the heat of Beau's skin where it touched hers somehow more now. Yasha lifted a hand to brush soft knuckles across the shaved part of her undercut, and a beat later Beau gave in and relaxed with a long exhale. "I haven't forgotten," she promised. "But for now, just lie here with me?"

 

"Course," Beau replied immediately. "Sorry. Felt trapped in a good way."

 

The simple trust in those words, coming from someone as viciously insistent on her freedom as Beau, made Yasha feel ten feet tall. But right now, she was content to simply be big enough to hold Beau against her, tucked inside of a sweater that had been made especially for her. "This sweater is a non-apology zone," she teased. "I just decided."

 

"Your everything is a non-apology zone." Beau's retort was unmistakably fond, and she turned her head to nip at the quick rub of Yasha's knuckles on her scalp before going still and quiet to just breathe together.

 

For a long minute they simply rested this way, and then the front door opened again and the warm, low tones of Caduceus's greeting carried through. That was everyone, then. Yasha stirred and felt Beau twitch slightly in a way that indicated she might have been halfway to a doze inside their sweater cocoon. "Caduceus is here. I think they will be missing us soon."

 

What little she could see of Beau's face wrinkled itself into a fake frown as her eyes fluttered open. "Why'd we invite a bunch of people over to interrupt us on your birthday again?"

 

Her grumpiness was a bluff that Yasha was more than happy to call. "Something about 'what do you mean you've never had a birthday party' and 'Veth makes the best cakes,' I think."

 

Beau exhaled a laugh as Yasha rubbed her jaw along the shaved side of her head. "She does though, and she'll hunt you down to make sure you eat some." She dropped her weight down off the bed and out from under the sweater before turning to look back at Yasha stretched across the bed in her big, warm, tangible reminder of how much her family loved her.

 

She sat up slowly, maintaining eye contact as she hooked two fingers in Beau's waistband to pull her in between her thighs and tilting her chin up to smile. "Hi."

 

"Hi." Beau slowly planted her hands on Yasha's biceps and leaned in to nuzzle her nose against her cheek, and the little sigh that escaped her when Yasha rubbed back made her heart feel too big for her chest. "You are so fucking cute, you know that?"

 

Yasha hummed and took the opportunity to scrape her teeth lightly over the hollow under Beau's ear. "Amazing what a good sweater can do."

 

"That's not what -"

 

Before Beau could finish, Molly's boisterous voice reached them from down the hall. "You could not pay me to come and get you two, but I'm eating Beau's cake if Yasha isn't out of there in fifteen seconds."

 

Yasha smiled and got to her feet as Beau whirled to glare at the door. "Try it, asshole!" She caught the smile Yasha was trying and failing to suppress when she turned back and snatched at her hand, more gentle than momentum and the scowl on her face would have suggested. "Where do you find these people, anyway?"

 

Yasha took the lead, opening the door and pulling Beau into the hallway. "Oh you know, here and there. Random house parties, friend of a friend type things." She flashed a smile at Molly and shrugged like you see me, right? which earned her a middle finger and a fond eyeroll.

 

Beau grinned. "Yeah? How's that going for you?"

 

"Hmm. Let me check." Yasha kissed her soundly on the mouth and pulled back to smile at her slightly dazed expression. "Yep. Pretty much everything I ever wanted. Now come on." She turned and headed for the room full of people waiting for her, tugging Beau along behind. "I hear there's some really good cake in need of rescue."